Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Myst V: The last great adventure game

As I clicked my mouse for one last time and then watched the ending credits, I felt sad. Sad because I finished a game that was really good. Let me explain.

I played the original Myst in a Playstation 1, back in 1995 or so. The game was just great because it was one of a kind, and it became for many years the best selling game in history (outscored only recently by The Sims).

I played Myst II, or Riven, in my home PC around 1998. Riven was a masterpiece. I personally regard it as the Mona Lisa of adventure games: when you stop back and realize the ingenuity of the plot, the complexity of the riddles, the imagination of the puzzles (who can forget the hallway that you could see only if you closed the doors that you just opened to entered the room!), it just takes your breath away. I never managed to do on my own not even 50% of the storyline, and when I was reading the solutions online I felt like reading Hercule Poirot's revealing of the murderer in an Agatha Christie novel.

Myst III and Myst IV were developed from a different company than the originals. They are still pretty good adventure games, close to the atmosphere of the originals, and much more beautiful artistically, but it felt like a very well done adaptation of a good book. They didn't feel original or groundbreaking.

I finished playing Myst V last night. While it is not as good as the first 2 Mysts, it is better than III and IV, partly due to the fact that Cyan Worlds made this game again, the creators of the first 2 games. The downside is that the graphics are now real-time rendered. In all previous 4 games the graphics were pre-rendered, which means that everything is stored in the computer hard drive and they are recalled each time the player reaches a specific screen in the game. Myst V is 3D, and the player has complete freedom of move. That means that the graphics are generated depending on how you walk, which means that the visual quality is lower, even if you have a super-fast computer.

On the upside, this game is original. For those of you that have never played Myst (fancy chance of that), the story backbone is that there is a civilization that writes books, and what is described in the books becomes an actual world that the player can explore and travel through. In Myst V they introduce the Tablets: they are pieces of stone that you can engrave something that can alter the physical appearance of the worlds (called Ages). A certain drawing will cause rain to fall, another one will cause teleportation, and other cool stuff. It was a great twist in the mythology that helped new kinds of puzzles to arise.

My favorite Age was #2, the star-observing world. It is pure work of a genious. Everything slowly makes sense, it has the coolest Tablet effect, star gazing, a small tram, and many more goodies. I think it is my favorite Age in all of the Myst series. It reminded me of the adventure games back in the mid-90s when I would play one game after the other. Now, it's just a race to who has the best graphics. I am so glad that Nintendo decided NOT to go to High Definition and kick-ass graphics in their new console, Wii. They said that they will focus on gameplay (based on an awesome space and movement sensing remote) rather than on technology. Go Zelda!

What's next? Civilization 4 probably, and I may give a try to And then there were none, based on the Agatha Christie classic mystery novel. But for the moment, I need to prepare for the Champion's League soccer final tomorrow!